Leicester team secures funding for research collaboration to improve patient safety

A team involving University of Leicester researchers is one of just six* located across England to be awarded a share of £25 million in funding by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to run a Patient Safety Research Collaboration (PSRC) from 2023-2028.

Leicester’s team will deliver a programme of research, along with University of Nottingham and University of Manchester researchers, as part of The Greater Manchester Patient Safety Research collaboration (GM PSRC), hosted by Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust. 

The collaborations will address strategic patient safety challenges within the health and care system, focusing on seven strategic areas set out by NHS England. These areas cover issues such as clinical risk scores, which enable professionals to identify people who may benefit from preventative interventions and improving the culture and practice in organisations to promote patient safety. 

Professor Lucy Chappell, Chief Executive of the NIHR, said: “Patient safety is about maximising the things that go right and minimising the things that go wrong for people receiving healthcare. We are aligning our funding with the strategic priorities from NHS England and ensuring that we are addressing the issues that really matter to patients.

“This new round of funding gives the best researchers the opportunity to assess innovations and approaches that could shift this balance for the better.”

The PSRCs will help researchers to develop and test innovations, approaches and interventions that could improve patient safety and the safety of health and care services. The funding will also enable partnerships to be built between health and care organisations, universities, local authorities, and patients and the public. 

The collaborations are an evolution of the Patient Safety Translational Research Centres (PSTRCs), which were first funded by the NIHR a decade ago. 

Professor Darren Ashcroft, Director of the Greater Manchester Patient Safety Research Collaboration, said: “We are delighted to have secured funding to continue patient safety research as one of the new Patient Safety Research Collaborations. The work we’ve delivered over the last 10 years at the Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre has impacted the safety of care delivered by the NHS, as our innovations have been adopted by health and social care and rolled out first regionally, then nationally. The new collaboration will allow our researchers to build on this success across four key themes of patient safety, and we’re excited to get this work underway.”

The Greater Manchester PSRC will focus on the following themes:

1. Improving Medication Safety

2. Enhancing Cultures of Safety

3. Developing Safer Health and Care Systems

4. Preventing Suicide and Self-harm

One of the four themes, ‘Enhancing Cultures of Safety’, will be led by researchers based at the University of Leicester. Professor Thompson Robinson, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Head of the College of Life Sciences and Dean of Medicine, University of Leicester, said: “I am delighted that the University of Leicester has been invited to be part of this exciting new collaboration. Research seeking to ensure the delivery of safe, high quality healthcare is a key area of focus both here at the University and for our NHS partners. 

“The ‘Enhancing Cultures of Safety’ theme, to be led by Professors Natalie Armstrong and Carolyn Tarrant, will ensure that efforts to improve organisational patient safety culture and practice are informed by high quality research.”

Natalie Armstrong, Professor of Healthcare Improvement Research at the University of Leicester, said: “We’re delighted to be leading the ‘Enhancing Cultures of Safety’ theme for this new PSRC. Organisational safety culture is a key priority and commonly implicated in patient safety failings. Our research will guide policy and practice in improving organisational safety culture.”

Carolyn Tarrant, Professor of Health Services Research at Leicester, added: “Our research will focus on supporting staff from ethnic minority groups to speak up about safety, understanding different meanings of safety across health and social care settings, and helping organisations navigate the complex landscape of safety guidance.”

In addition to funding six PSRCs, the NIHR is also providing new, additional funding to establish a network between these collaborations. The network will provide a platform for strategic coordination and a focal point for collaboration between the PSRCs. 

For example, in times of national crises, such as the COVID-19 outbreak, the network could work with partners and respond as a single entity. The role of leading the network will be awarded through a competitive process, with further details provided soon.